Slow Down Part 2
So often, Christmas comes and goes in a blur. The frantic rush to shop. The obligation of work related dinners. The chaotic list to check off. The hectic last minute rush to the mall. Let’s all be honest for a moment. Christmas generally becomes more about getting it done rather than taking the time to really reflect on what it’s all about.
This isn’t new to our generation. In the first century, empires had anarchy. Politics were at their worst, and in all this disorder most people missed the real birth of Jesus Christ. Nobody could slow down to witness the arrival of the hope they had all been desperately asking for.
Maybe this season we need to pause and really reflect on the impact of God sending His Son. What if in our rush we have skipped over something imperative to our understanding of the meaning of Christmas. If the first century missed Jesus when He was on this earth and in the flesh, is it possible that we may be missing something, too?
This Christmas season let’s choose one of the most important things we can amidst the rush and culture of the now. Let’s decided to slow down.
Well, good morning to everybody and good morning also to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. I'm going to date myself here a little bit, but does anybody remember Bob Ross and the Joy of Painting? Come on, now. He was the guy that coined the perma-fro. Remember the deal? For some of you all that are younger, you need to go back and watch. You'll see it. This cat was on TV painting for 11 years. Can you imagine trying to do a program today painting and staying on the air for 11 years? It would never happen.
Well, this guy, seriously, he was like the Mr. Rogers of painting. Really quiet spoken or whatever. So, what he would do is he'd get a canvas and then he'd start putting stuff together and he'd say, "Hey, watch this." Then he'd take some oil and do this and some different shades and then it would be like a really cool picture. The idea was if you could follow along with what he was doing, then you could end up with sort of the work of art that he had done. And what I'd like to submit is that the Bible and the Gospel stories are much like that. There's different little things that are going on that ultimately bring out a beautiful picture. And sometimes, to see the beauty of the picture, you've got to sort of know the way things have been painted and put together so that we get the idea of what the Gospel writers are saying.
And that's the idea that we're sort of doing here in this three-week series called "Slow Down." So, if you're new, I like to bring everybody back up to speed as to what we're doing. We're looking at the Christmas stories, but we're doing it in a way where we sort of slow down, reread them anew and afresh. And the reason I wanted to do that is because in my own life I've been guilty at times of running through Matthew 1 and 2 or running through Luke 1 and 2 because we know them so well. I mean, every Christmas, somewhere, someplace there's a nativity. Somewhere, someplace we probably grew up at some point and saw a Christmas musical or we saw something on TV.
And it's like because we know these stories so well or because we're so familiar with them, it's really easy when we get to the Bible and we're reading the birth of Jesus to move on and want to get to the good stuff. You know? Instead of really paying attention in Luke 1 and 2, we sort of get to Luke 3 where John the Baptist is on the scene and he's telling the Pharisees that they're a brood of vipers. You know, that real positive speech that he gave that everybody loved.
Then Luke 4 where Jesus, as you know, is battling out with the devil and the temptation narrative. Or Luke 5 where Jesus says, "Let's go cast out into the deep," and all of those things. But, sometimes, in our hurry and rush and familiarity with the stories, we sort of run through them quickly. And sometimes, we're not really getting what's going on with every brushstroke and every little thing to paint this beautiful picture.
So, here was the conundrum that I had this weekend. I knew that I was going to be delivering a devotional or a sermon that would be the ending part of the Slow Down series to everybody via the internet. And the natural way to do that was to go sequentially, where you would start with Luke and build up and then finish the last part of Luke at the end. The problem was that the last part of Luke, I've never heard anybody preach a sermon on at Christmas time, and it's still part of the infancy narrative. So, I've got to be honest with you. The prospects of getting to share a sermon that I had never preached before and one that I don't think anybody's really paid attention to that much – in fact, we had one of the staff members that said to me, "I've read that story all the time. I didn't even know that was in there."
So, knowing that, I decided to do a typical Chip thing. I'm going to do a backwards deal, okay? So, what's going to happen is today, you're going to get the ending part of Luke 2 and on Christmas you're going to get the beginning part of Luke 2. And I think you all can sort of put the two together. I trust that you all can do that, because I want to be able to preach this message today because I think we're going to have a lot of fun as we slow down and we look at the last part of Luke. I mean, I think this is going to be delicious. This is good stuff. Okay? I'm telling you. I'm excited. So, here's the deal. That's alright. You can clap. We clap at Grace. It's good. You know? You get excited. It's good. I get excited about the Word of God.
So, anyway, here's the deal so that everybody's up to speed in case if you're not quite sure about the Christmas story or whatever. I want to make sure that nobody's sort of falling apart here and doesn't know what's going on. Luke basically starts off in the beginning of Luke and he tells us about a guy named Zechariah who's a priest and he's married to a lady named Elizabeth. They've been praying for a baby. Well, it's Zechariah's time to go pray. He's the priest. So, he's in the time of prayer. People are outside praying. Everybody's praying. I mean, this is a time of prayer. He's the priest. You know? And the angel shows up and says, "Hey. God's heard your prayer."
And he doesn't believe it. Isn't that great? That's awesome. Come on. Does anybody relate? Like, "Oh, man. God. You answered my prayer. Wow! I didn't even believe it."
You know? So, we find out that they're going to have a child and then Luke tells us that there's this little girl in Galilee. It couldn't be more of a contrast. Priest man; peasant girl. And the angel comes and visits her and basically says the same thing to her that he said to Zechariah. She believes. Go figure. So, there we go. The little Jewish girl in Galilee believes. And then we're told the story that her and Joseph and up going to Bethlehem and Jesus is born there. And God, rather than showing up in the temple which is sort of where you would think He would show up, He shows up in the pasture lands with these shepherd people telling them to come and visit His Son.
So, they do and they visit. And it says they walk away telling everybody about the glories that they've seen and they're all excited and life is good. Then Luke tells us in Luke2:21 that on the eighth day, Jesus was circumcised and then He was named. So, that's where we're going to start. Right there. We're going to start in Luke 2:22, and I think this is going to be fun. You're going to enjoy this. It's part of Luke's infancy narrative. It's part of the canvas that he paints for you and me. And I think it's going to be important to watch how he paints and what he is saying to you and me, because I think there's a lot in there that we need to hear.
So, everybody with me? Here's what we're going to do. Let's get to Luke 2 and let's move on here. Now, what Luke has done, Luke's not so concerned about what they're doing. I mean, he is concerned that they're keeping the Jewish law. But, he's more concerned about getting us into the temple and what ensues after that. So, here's the way he does it: he conflates four things very quickly. The circumcision in verse 21, the naming, and then in Luke 2:22 he says, "And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord."
This is two specific things that are going on. One, Mary is getting purified for the fact that she has just had a child. And the way the Old Testament worked is when you had a boy, it was 33 days after you'd had the boy that you could be purified. It was 66 days after a girl. And that's found in Leviticus, this idea of purification. And let's be honest. Is there any more of a deal killer when you start of the beginning of the year and you're going to read the Bible all the way through than when you get to the book of Leviticus? Isn't that when you just basically say, "I give up. I quit. I love you, God. Matthew's looking really good."
So, what we have here is she's supposed to get purified and then they're bringing Jesus up to Jerusalem to dedicate Him. They're not going to buy Him back with some five shekels. They're actually dedicating Him much like they had done with Samuel. They're dedicating Him to the Lord.
And he goes on to say, "(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, 'Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord')"
So, the whole idea here is that Jesus is being dedicated to the Lord's service and Mary is getting purified for the fact that she's had a child.
It says, "And to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, 'a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.'"
Now, this is where we've got to slow down. Because, in Leviticus 12, we're told the story that when a lady has a child, she is to offer and lamb and she's also to offer with that lamb either a turtledove or a pigeon. So, there's two things that will be offered for purification. Now, if you are poor, God made a provision for the poor. And the provision for the poor was simply this: if you could not afford to buy a lamb, then rather than a lamb and a turtledove or a lamb and a pigeon, you could offer two turtledoves or two pigeons. So, where you might read through this quickly and not see what's going on, what Luke is telling you and me is that Mary and Joseph are poor. They don't have the money to go buy a lamb to do what's right. And we know that they're scrupulous in keeping the law. I mean, they're doing everything that the law says to do. So, if they could afford a lamb, they would, which corroborates the story that the Magi had not come and brought the gold, frankincense and myrrh at this point. Because, had they had that, they would've bought the appropriate things for the sacrifice.
Now, I think what's really cool is this though. Where they were supposed to offer a lamb with the turtledove or the pigeon and they couldn't afford the lamb, they're actually carrying the lamb with them in Jesus. Isn't that beautiful? Cool stuff, huh? Okay. So, let's continue on here. Somebody's like, "Light bulb. Man, that's cool!"
I told you this is cool stuff. The Bible's cool. It's really cool stuff. So, here we go. Let's continue on.
"Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon,"
This is why Luke has brought us to where he's bringing us. He's introducing some people to us. And we've got to ask the question, why's he doing this? Why is this part of the infancy narrative here where Jesus has been born and now He's in the temple and they're dedicating Him and Mary's getting purified and they're doing all of this stuff? And we're meeting a guy named Simeon. In fact, we're going to meet two people, and they both are going to be older, which is significant. So, I want you to really pay attention and look what Luke does, because I think this is incredible stuff in the way he writes his Gospel.
"Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon,"
Now, you could not speak more highly of a person. Look at what he says here:
"This man was righteous and devout," – I mean, this guy was a good man – "waiting for the consolation of Israel..."
In other words, he was in the temple, he's a good man, he's a devout man, he's waiting patiently for God to do what God has said that He will do.
"And the Holy Spirit was upon him."
I don't know how you could say any more about somebody than this. I do say, though – something here that I think's important – maybe if we were more patient in waiting for God to do the things that He says He will do, which He always will do, maybe we might have the Holy Spirit more upon us than we do in normal ways. Let's continue on here, okay?
So, "He was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit..."
Notice here that Luke's throwing all this Holy Spirit stuff out. Luke's really big on the Holy Spirit. You'll see that as you read Luke and Acts.
It says, "And it had been revealed to him..." – this is Simeon – "...by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ."
How awesome is that, that God spoke to Simeon beforehand and said, "Simeon, you're not going to die until you have seen the Lord's Christ?"
I'm going to ask you a question. Do you believe that God can speak to you things before they happen and you can believe that He will accomplish those things in your life because He is faithful to do the things He says?
"And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple,"
I mean, this guy's a spiritual dude, isn't he? He's righteous, devout, Holy Spirit's upon him. He even comes in the temple in the Spirit. I mean, this is a man on a mission. This is a man that loves God. This is a man that's sold out. So, he comes into the temple in the Spirit.
"And when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,"
Now, I want you to follow this. This is not a coincidence. He shows up right time, right place. If you think he was looking for a baby, I would say I disagree with you. I don't think he knew exactly what he was looking for, he just knew he was going to see the Lord's Christ before he passed away. He walks in, he's so spiritual, he's so godly that all of a sudden he's in the Spirit and he realizes that that right there, in this couple that he doesn't even know and this couple doesn't know him, all of a sudden he goes in, picks up this baby – and in the Jewish world, an older person would have been given honor. He picked him up. Can you imagine if you walked in a church with a baby?
I mean, we've got like 93 kids in my family, and I can't imagine somebody coming and picking up one of my kids. Man, I've got so many kids. I can't even remember their birthdays and their names. We've been having floods at our house and plagues. I mean, I'm expecting locusts and everything to show up. I'm like, "God, soften my heart. I will let Your people go."
The girls are in the room and they decide to do beauty night, Gia and Parker, so I guess we had this mirror that was on the wall because we're having to paint the walls and all this stuff – it had been crazy at our house. Anyway, they bring this mirror out. This is a pretty sturdy mirror. And I guess Gia's holding the mirror so Parker can do a beauty act or whatever. Well, Gia lets go of the mirror. The mirror falls right down and lands on Parker's big toe and breaks her big toe. So, not only do we have floods and pestilences, now we have broken toes. It's like it is always crazy. I tell you what, I'm happy to come here when I come here. I just want you to know that. Everybody's like, "That boy's crazy preaching four services."
I need them. They're therapeutic. I show up to the emergency clinic and they're like, "What's her birthday?"
I'm like, "I don't know. I have no idea."
I have to go to my phone and pull out my list. "Okay. Here it is. Parker. There she is right there."
And they're like, "Man. What's your name?"
I said, "Pharaoh."
So, anyway, he takes up this baby in his arms. And you can imagine it's like this is crazy going on here. It's crazy stuff. And here's what he says, he blesses God and he starts off in a prayer. I mean, he doesn't even address them right away. He just starts thanking God and he's got this baby in his arms.
He says, "'Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,'"
In other words, "I can die now."
"'according to your word;'"
"You told me. You told me what was going to happen and now it's happening. I'm an older man now and I can go in peace, because You fulfilled Your word.
"'For my eyes have seen your salvation...'"
It's beautiful. Look at this.
"'...that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,'"
"This child, He's going to save everybody. He's going to do all this great stuff.
"'He's a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.'"
That would have been sort of radical at that time, because they had these expectations that God would do certain things. But, for him to already be talking about the Gentiles coming in and all this stuff was radical, radical stuff.
"And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him."
I mean, they had had dreams. I mean, they knew Jesus was special. But, you can imagine. They don't know this guy. Everything's new for them. Everything that's going on is crazy. This guy comes in, picks up the child and says all this about Jesus and it's like, "Whoa."
What's really cool is, to show you how God is so faithful to His word, you know the book of Deuteronomy says that everything needs to be established in the mouth of two or three witnesses. We're going to get two witnesses that are going to tell Mary and Joseph the very things that God has told them according to His word so that they know that this is, in fact, the Messiah. This is the Christ child.
It's so cool, too, because Simeon's talking about the Gentiles coming in and the Jews coming in and all this stuff going on. And you remember Luke wrote the book of Acts. And in the moment in the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 where the Jewish people decide that, "You know what, God really is letting the Gentiles in," it's so cool. Luke refers to Simon Peter and he uses the name "Simeon," which is so cool because he's doing a throwback to Simeon here in his previous work and telling you that, "Hey, what Simeon prophesied is happening now in Acts 15 through the apostles."
Really cool stuff. But, let's continue on here.
So, "Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,"
Now, at this point, it's been like, "It's cool, man. It's awesome." It's like a crescendo. But then, that paint starts being painted a little bit of a darker color here and we need to pay attention to this, because Luke's telling us things here. These stories are not there by accident.
He says, "'Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed...'"
It's like, "Whoa."
That would have been a moment for Mary because, so far, everything's been sort of pretty cool. I mean, it's like Jesus is going to be born. He's the savior of the world. The shepherds are coming. Everything's great. This older man shows up, blesses them and now, all of a sudden, there's this little bit of a turn here that this baby is going to create the fall in some people and the rise in others and He's going to be opposed by people. Which brings in this, and I want you to hear me here, because this is really important. Luke, in no uncertain terms – because there is a flavor that's going through the American church right now, and I feel as a pastor that I have to give an account for the things that I teach to make sure that you all are equipped right.
There is a real seriousness to heaven and hell. There's a real seriousness. Nobody believes in grace anymore than me. Everybody in town may believe as much as I do. Nobody believes anymore. I believe God meets you where you are. I don't believe He could love you any more than He does. It's an extravagant love. You can't do anything to get your way into heaven. You can't earn it, you can't pray it, you can't give it. None of that stuff. I'm all grace. I'm all in. But, Jesus is a polarizing figure. Because, if you do not accept who Jesus is, it's not a positive thing for your life in so many ways. And let me say this to you: we have the highest stakes game in town. As long as there is a heaven and as long as there is a hell, we've got to be doing everything that we can to be presenting Jesus to the people that are outside the four walls of this church in an authentic way so that they can come to know the Savior for themselves.
And then he says, "'(And a sword will pierce through your own soul also)'"
Can you imagine if you were Mary? I mean, you just had this moment where you're like, "Whoa. We're wondering."
And then, all of a sudden, there's a piercing that's going to happen. She's going to feel the piercing in her heart as a mother.
And then he says, "'So that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.'"
In other words, the way we respond to Jesus will show how we're responding to God. Some people will rise and some people will fall.
"And there was a prophetess,"
It's like, man, this is a pretty cool story here. We've got Simeon, this older man. And now we have a prophetess.
"Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years,"
Like, "Thanks, Luke. You're taking us to the geriatric ward of the temple, man. What's going on here? Why are the old people here?"
And we're going to get to that. This is really good. Pay attention.
"She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin,"
So, basically, if you do the math, let's say she was about 13 years old when she got married, she lived 7 years with her husband, she would have been 20 years old when she lost her husband.
"And then as a widow until she was eighty-four."
So, at a minimum, she's been a widow for 64 years. There is a question in the original language, honestly, as to whether she's been a widow for 84 years or if she's a widow that's 84. So, if she's a widow that's been a widow for 84 years, then she'd be like 104 or maybe 105 at this time. We don't know. The bottom line is that she's an older lady and she has been widowed and she's been widowed for a long time. And let's see what he has to say about her.
"She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day."
It's like, "Wow. This is a pretty sold out woman here too. You've got Simeon, a devout guy, a man walking in the Spirit. Now we have a widow that rather than going back out and getting married or anything like that has devoted herself to God, to prayer and fasting and all of this and worshiping God."
"And coming up at that very hour..." – not by chance, not randomness, Simeon didn't just show up because.
Let me tell you something. If you're here today, you're not here just because. You're here for a reason, and you're going to hear that in a minute. But, you're not here by chance.
"Coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem."
So, she comes up, she sees Jesus, Simeon sees Jesus, these two older people. What in the world is Luke telling us? Then he goes on to tell us that Jesus grew up and he grew in favor and stature and wisdom and with the favor of men and God. What is he telling us here? What is he doing by taking Jesus in the infancy narrative and having this new baby come in to meet two older people who are on their way out? What is going on here? What is he trying to tell us? What is the picture that he's painting?
Well, if you've got a sheet of paper or you've got an iPad or an Android pad or whatever you have, if you'd write down these notes on the back of your bulletin, there's a thing that says "notes." I'd like for you to write these down. This is the take-homes section. But, I think these are some things that Luke are the reason Luke's written this for us. I think we're going to ferret this out, we're going to understand this as we take some practical things that we can take home with us. The first thing, and I think when you read the Bible you should be doing this: you should ask the question, "Am I like Simeon and Anna? Am I like these people?"
I don't believe the Bible records these stories for you and me to just read them. I believe the Bible records these stories for our instructions. Paul says that in Romans 15:4, that everything that's been written is for our instruction, which means we need to be getting stuff out of this. Are we like Simeon and Anna? And here's some questions that we can ask about that.
First of all, are we led by the Spirit? Is that something that we're led by? I mean, are we really led by the Spirit? I mean, Simeon and Anna are good, godly people. Simeon is so filled with the Spirit, everything is said, "The Spirit was upon him, he was led by the Spirit, he was a spiritual man."
Are we really led by the Spirit or are we led by what we do in our own wisdom? Because, one of the things Luke tells us, and I think it's implicit in what he's saying, he says, "There were a lot of people from different groups."
Zechariah and Elizabeth, they were older and they saw Jesus. Mary was younger and she came to Jesus. Joseph was a guy that had some relationship issues and didn't understand how that worked and how she got pregnant and had to deal with that. He came to Jesus. The shepherds that were out in the field, they came to Jesus. Simeon and Anna, they found out who Jesus was. But, most people didn't. But, the fact of the matter is everybody was included whether you're old, young or wherever you're at. You were included. But, very few people really realized what was going on. And I think that Luke is suggesting that. When we read it, do we realize what's going on? Are we led by the Spirit? Are we looking for the consolation of Israel? Are we people that are waiting for what God will do? Are we attuned to what God's doing? Most of us remember at some point growing up, probably in church – and if you've only been in church for a week, you've probably heard somebody quote Proverbs 3:5-7.
It says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight [direct] your paths."
One of the things that we don't really think about very often is the second part of verse 5. It says, "Lean not on your own understanding."
Quite honestly, most of us lean to our own understanding in just about everything that we do. And then we try to figure out how we can get God in on the thing that we figured out how we're doing rather than being led by the Spirit. And you know, when you're led by the Spirit, when somebody slaps you on the cheek you turn the other one. When you're just doing your own thing and leaning to your own understanding, you become Rambo, or at least you think you do. Right? You know how that works?
So, the question is are we led by the Spirit? Is that something that we are? How about this one here: are we willing to be a part but not the part? And this is huge. Because, these are older people. And let's be honest. As we get older, we don't like change. Come on. Some of you all that older, at least give me a moment and say "amen." We don't like to have change, right? We like it to be the way we are.
Okay, but Luke has recorded older people having to give way to newer things and they're happy with it. They're blessing it. They're loving that they're a part of it. They don't have to be the part of it. They just want to be a part. God's doing new things all the time. He's always doing stuff. Nostalgia's not spirituality. Let me just let that reverberate. God doesn't do the greatest hits tour. Maybe the Eagles do. Okay? God's always doing new things. Mary's seeing new things. There's a reason why he has given us two older people on the way out of life to show us how God is doing the new thing. The old is giving way to the new, but the old is okay with what's going on with the new. They're okay to be a part. They don't have to be the part.
Let me explain that in a way that maybe this will make the most sense. Every week – and when I saw every week, there might be one week out of the year that this doesn't happen, but it's pretty much every week. And it's usually on Saturday. I usually come in here about 11 to 1 or somewhere in there when nobody's in here. And I stand right in the center of the church where the lights are on and I come in because I usually try to pray for the chairs and whatever. I put my hands on the back of the chair. Nobody's in here. And I say, "God, this is Your church. These are Your people. You do not need me to be the pastor of this church. And if You need to remove me to bring somebody in who can shepherd Your people better, I'm all in. Because, I don't have to be about me. I want this to be about You. And God, if You should give me years at this church to build whatever is built, I pray that You would give me the wisdom to build it in a way that the person who comes after me will be able to take it and do even greater things than when I was here. Because, God, this is Your church."
What I'm saying is I don't have to be the part. I just want to be a part. It doesn't have to look the way I want it. I just want it to be the way God wants it. And what Luke is telling us here is that Anna and Simeon, they could say, "No. We don't like it this way. We didn't expect a baby. We don't want it to look this way. We surely don't like it this way. We don't want any of this stuff."
But, they were okay with being a part. They didn't have to be the part. How about this one: are we persistent in prayer, lifestyle and waiting? I mean, come on. None of us like to wait, right? I mean, if I could create a microwave Bible, I'd be a millionaire. Right? Just press the button and out pops the promise. Right? I mean, none of us want to wait. Are we persistent in our prayers? I mean, these people, Anna was there for 64 years praying. Simeon was praying all the time. Waiting for God. Because, he knew that God would accomplish the things that He said He would accomplish. They were persistent. Their lifestyle was holy.
You know, I met with somebody last week and had lunch with them and they said, "You know, you speak a lot about the legalism in the church and I'm glad you do. But, one of the things that you may not be aware of is I didn't struggle with legalism, I struggle with license. I got ahold of the grace message and just lived any way I wanted to live and God has convicted me over the last few years that He's also a Holy God."
Notice how that doesn't go too well? I want you to hear that. God is also a Holy God. You know? There's reasons why the Bible says we've got to look different and act different and be different. And the beauty is God has given every single one of us all the things that pertain to life in godliness to live out the life that He's called us to live. And He wants us to do that, but are we persistent in it? Do we want that in our lives?
How about this: are we more concerned with God's plan than ours? They were. They were fine. They were like, "Man. Get it on. This is awesome. We're not going to see where this goes. We're just happy to be here in this moment to knowing that it's going somewhere. We're happy to be that way."
So, are we like Anna and Simeon? I think that's one thing that's being asked. I think the next thing that's being asked is are we willing to do our part and pour into and bless the next generation? Simeon takes this little baby that's going to do all these great things and he blesses it. He says, "Thank You, God, for letting me be a part of it."
Listen to me. Hear me so well here when I say this: I don't understand why the young people want to wear their pants down and show their underwear any more than you do. I don't know why they want to put big things in their ears. I don't. But, listen to me. God is concerned about the next generation, and what the church in America needs to do is to get off the seats and stop trying to make it the way they want it and the way they like it and the way they'd think that it should be and realize that nostalgia is not spirituality and that it's all about the next generation. If we're not pouring into the next generation, if we're not winning the next generation, if we're not seeing the next generation saved, we're one generation from extinction as the Christian church. We need to be about the next generation.
And let me tell you something, their concerns are not your concerns. You're not going to understand. To understand them, you're going to have to get out of your comfort zone and understand what's concerning to them. They're desperate for love. They're desperate to feel like they have dignity. They're desperate. They come from broken families. They come from broken dreams. They look at trying to get jobs and can't find one and all they need is somebody to walk up to them and start judging them and telling them how they don't look right and everything else because that's the way it was when you grew up. What they need is some people to believe in them and to affirm them. And listen, they may come in here and wear hats different and pants different and everything else. But, when the young people are in the house of God, we win every time.
You know, we moved up here with like 50 people, and I took it on the chin because we went and painted this children's area really well and people are like, "Ah, Chip's just painting that because he's got a bunch of kids."
And I was like, "Man." You know, it was hard sometimes to have to go home and take that criticism. But see, I knew that God was going to bring in young families and young kids and I wanted to make sure that they knew that they were welcome here. And now we run 900 people and everybody goes, "Man, Chip was smart, man."
I'm like, "Where were you at four years ago?"
You know? I mean, the reality is it's because I care about these kids. I mean, these kids do great drama theater and great stuff. Our youth group matters. We preach the Bible. The reason is because we want to bless the next generation. I'm asking all of the Annas and the Simeons in our church to not be about the part but to be about a part and to realize we're making a difference and we're reaching the next generation for the glory of the Lord.
Third, can we accept that following the Lord has lived continually between continuity and discontinuity? This is the struggle of Christianity. The struggle of Christianity is we know that Hebrew 13:8 says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forevermore. He's always going to be the same. But, He's always doing something new. And therein lies the problem. Because, what it is is we like it the way we like it and God's always doing new. The reason churches die is because they hold on to what God did rather than what God is doing. Can we live there in that crazy state of all the time God being who He is, being continuous? You see that in this story. What God's doing with Jesus is what He's always said He would do. But, there's a discontinuity because it's breaking with some of the things that have happened before because God is a God who's about doing the new thing.
Now, I want you to lean in here, because this is probably the most important part of what I'm saying. There's an old thing that people do in the New Testament. It's an act that most of us probably haven't done. We've heard about it, maybe, but not really experienced it. It's called foot washing. Basically, the idea of foot washing was this: maybe you or me, we're going over to somebody's house, and everywhere we had travelled that day was accumulated on our feet. But, when we got to that nice house, somebody'd come wash our feet and get all the stuff that had accumulated away so that we could stand there sort of in newness in the moment.
It's because God wants to do new things. The Christmas story is about new things. You're here today because God wants to do new things in your life. He doesn't want to rehash what He's done; He wants to do new things. And what I want to do is I want to end with just reading you a passage of Scripture, and I want you to let it speak to you today.
"This is what God says, the God who builds a road right through the ocean,"
You say, "Wow. Man, I've got an ocean that I'm dealing with right now. I've got the seas of chaos in my life."
God says, "I build a road right through the ocean."
"Who carves a path through pounding waves,"
Maybe you're experiencing that in your life. The pounding of the waves and the chaos of the sea. This is what God says to us. "I build a road right through it and I carve a path right through the pounding waves.
"The God who summons horses and chariots and armies–they lie down and they can't get up; they're snuffed out like so many candle."
All those things that come against you, all of those things that come against us, all of the armies and the chariots and the fighting and all of that that God can arise and He can extinguish just like a candle.
"'Forget about what's happened; don't keep going over old history.'"
Maybe that's why you're here this morning.
"'Forget about what's happened; don't keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new. It's bursting out! Don't you see it? There it is! I'm making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.'"
The beauty of Christmas is that Jesus comes to bring newness to all of us. Even for those that are on our way out, we get to experience the newness. And for those of us that are there in the moment, we get to run with it as it happens. But, God is doing a new thing. He wants to do a new thing in your life. Maybe you're here this morning and you need to forget about what's happened. Maybe you need to forget about those old histories. Maybe you need to walk in the newness of what Jesus Christ has done for you. He brings a new creation for you and me. He casts all those things that happened in the past away and we walk in the holiness and righteousness of what He has done for you and me because He is a good God. It is time for us to realize that God is a God of the new, and let's make sure that we are like Anna and Simeon and we're looking constantly for what God is doing new so that we don't fall prey to enjoying all the things that we want to do and try to be the part, that we can be a part of all the great things that God is doing.
So, here's the deal: God wants to do new things in your life this Christmas. He wants to do new things in Lakewood Ranch this Christmas season. He wants to do new things in this church for 2017. Let's believe that God is a God of the new and that the Christmas story and it's nice little ending in Luke 2 as he paints these beautiful brushes, what we see is this segue between the old and the new and we're reminded that God is constantly up to something new. Let's let Him do that in our lives. Let's pray.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We thank You so much for the goodness of Your Word. Thank You so much for these stories that are so rich and so profound. Lord, I know there's people right now here in the sanctuary and people that will listen via the internet and mobile app. I know there's people right now that are hearing this that need to hear that You can do something new in their life. Maybe it's for the first time following You, submitting and saying, "God, I repent of my sins and I'm laying myself in front of You, God. I need You in my life. I'm desperate, Lord. Please come into my life and forgive me."
Or whether it's somebody who's been walking for 30 years or 40 years or 50 years with You, God, let it be new for all of us this Christmas season. We thank You for these stories. We thank You for Anna and Simeon and we thank You for what it teaches us, Lord. Let us walk out of here in newness, rejoicing that we serve a God who's as good as You.
So, Lord, I pray that as we walk out of here, as we leave, that You would continue to lead, guide and direct all of us to become the people in the church that You want us to be. I pray, God, that You would help us to remember to pray for the 23rd because we have an opportunity, Lord, to share the love of Jesus with thousands of people. Go with us as we leave, give us a wonderful Christmas season, and we thank You so much for what You're doing. Let us walk out of here new. In Jesus' name, and everybody said, "amen."
Give the Lord a hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.